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Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina Paperback – International Edition, October 23, 1989

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Editorial Reviews Review

Picking up where the extraordinarily interesting I, Claudius ends, Claudius the God tells the tale of Claudius' 13-year reign as Emperor of Rome. Naturally, it ends when Claudius is murdered--believe me, it's not giving anything away to say this; the surprise is when someone doesn't get poisoned. While Claudius spends most of his time before becoming emperor tending to his books and his writings and trying to stay out of the general line of corruption and killings, his life on the throne puts him into the center of the political maelstrom.

From the Inside Flap

Robert Graves begins anew the tumultuous life of the Roman who became emporer in spite of himself. Captures the vitality, splendor, and decadence of the Roman world at the point of its decline.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage international ed edition (October 23, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679725733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679725732
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

138 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Cordless Iron Man on August 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
A lot of the reviews of this book fail to recognise the exercise in which Graves was engaged when writing this book. I agree that he glorifies Claudius beyond what we will find in many historical texts, and also that he goes on about Herod Agrippa (although some people, including myself, find this very interesting) and in general, the book is written rather differently to I, Claudius.
You must recall, however, whether you have read the book already or are considering reading it, that Graves sets about to write a fictional autobiography. That is the style that he chose and I think he does it brilliantly. In I, Claudius we see the various emperors of Rome through Claudius's eyes - we are shocked by their terror, their blood-thirstiness and the general tyranny of their rule. Claudius, as a Republican, allows us to see these things in a manner that we would understand. In this book, however, Graves is trying to give us insight into the mind of an emperor: we see the difference between what occupies his mind now and what did when he was just a citizen. We also see the manner in which he justifies his actions to himself. He is constantly claiming that his actions were not tyrannical, that he was not exercising imperial authority but that he was doing what any reasonable man in his circumstances would have done. In these passages Graves is making it clear to us that he is writing about Claudius as Claudius would have seen himself.
After all, it would have been rather boring to just have another book on how terrible this or that emperor was - here, Graves has attempted, quite boldly, to put us in the shoes of the emperor and see how a reasonable man could fall prey to the charms of virtually unlimited power over the most powerful empire in world history.
I think he does it brilliantly.
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Taking up where "I, Claudius" left off, "Claudius the God" chronicles the reign of one of the most unlikely Emperors in Roman history: the lame, stuttering, and hardly stupid Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus. Having spent his entire life trying to *avoid* any political office, mostly by letting his family think he's a hopeless idiot (intelligence tends to get weeded out rather rapidly among the Julio-Claudians, usually with the help of some poison), Claudius finds himself catapulted to the throne at the age of fifty-one when his nephew, the mad Emperor Caligula, is assassinated. He doesn't want to be Emperor-he is in fact a staunch believer in restoring the Roman Republic-but eventually is forced to accept the job and thus begins the ill-fated rule of one of the most interesting Emperors of all time.
Of course he's doomed from the start-there's hardly an Emperor who *wasn't* murdered, and poison probably qualifies as death by natural causes when you're Roman aristocracy-and his wife Messalina is quite a piece of work, but that doesn't stop the book from being a good read, especially in the earlier parts of the story where Claudius shows an unexpected capacity for efficient administration. The same wry humor and political intrigue that characterized "I, Claudius" are present here as well, and the cast-of-thousands are all distinguished quite well from each other. While "Claudius the God" is not as captivating as its predecessor, and is in fact quite a bit more depressing, it's a book worth reading. There is only one drawback to reading these two tales of intrigue and Imperial families: you'll find yourself wanting to go out and get a food taster afterwards...
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By C. Collins on September 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Whereas Claudius the God is not quite as fast moving and dramatic as I, Claudius; the sequel is a worthy masterpiece equal to the first volume. Whereas I, Claudius was about survival without power; Claudius the God is about survival with power. This point is very well made as the parallel careers and lives of Claudius and Herod Agrippa are intertwined. Herod Agrippa and Cladius were close friends. Herod had been raised in the household of Octavia Caesar, Claudius' mother and sister to the Emporer Caesar Augustus. Claudius eventually realizes that the clever, witty, charming, light-hearted persona that Herod Agrippa presented to the royal court of the Julio-Claudians was in fact his shield and mask that hide his ambitions and aspirations. Claudius hide his intellect, wit,and insight behind his stutter and limp but because of his friendship with Herod, he learns late that Herod also had a mask. Yet, even though the rebellion of Herod, as king of the Jews, hurt Claudius because of their years of friendship; it was Herod who never betrayed Claudius at court, never revealed that Claudius was brighter than generally percieved, and gave him the best advice possible "Trust no one".

There is no other wasy to describe Claudius' marriage to Mesalina except to say it was very messy. Love is certainly blind and Claudius almost loses his life to the manipulative and treacherous young wife with her thousand lovers. Mesalina was a mess.

Graves documents that he used multiple sources other than Suetonius' Live of the Twelve Caesars. Suetonius wrote a hundred years after the reign of Claudius and thus had a republican axe to grind against all the Julio-Claudian family. Graves is far more sympathetic and balanced in his telling of the life of Claudius.
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